Ford launched Sync -- its telematics joint venture with Microsoft -- four years ago, and promoted it heavily when it launched the Ford Fusion. A new report from Edmunds.com suggests the technology is becoming old school.
Sync allows voice-activation to smartphones and digital devices, but reviews have not been as strong for MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, with Consumer Reports saying: "The touch-sensitive buttons are flawed at best, and the changeable displays could easily be far more distracting than a simpler interface."
Meanwhile, Kia -- which benefited when Microsoft's exclusivity deal with Ford expired -- now has its own system called Uvo, which Kia unveiled at the CES show in Vegas over a year ago and was scheduled to hit dealer showrooms by the end of the year, but is still not available.
GM's MyLink and Toyota's Entune -- which rolls out this spring -- updates its system software automatically via Toyota's dedicated telematics network Safety Connect, meaning that the owner doesn't have to fool with manual update protocols with his or her smartphone.
Edmunds.com points out what Sync did that was so game-changing: its platform introduced scalability by making the in-car part of the product a conduit for the owner's smartphone or digital device. "[Sync] both nailed the connectivity of portable devices to the automobile and solved the issue of obsolescence in electronic devices," says the report, which argues that based on take rates of the Sync system, it was a huge boon to Ford vehicle sales.
But competitors have begun offering that same ability to tether a mobile device to the car's dedicated platform. Edmunds says Ford has also been criticized of late for usability and compatibility issues and the distracted-driver imbroglio. If others surpass Sync, that would be a major hit to Ford. "The industry is undergoing a sort of transformation with infotainment," comments Henry Bzeih, national manager of Kia's Connected Car program, who was quoted in the report. "And the dust needs to settle a bit. Some OEMs have leaped too far forward, and in the process things have backfired."
But Edmunds also points out that take rates for Sync are 94% in the 2011 Explorer, 83% in the Edge crossover and higher for Focus and Fusion.
Edmunds points out that Sync's ability to add apps is no longer unique and in some ways has been surpassed. Toyota's Entune includes a graphic interface where you can add apps. Sync has that as well for its AppLink program which is so far only on Fiesta. General Motors is using OnStar to do a hybrid system that it launched this month with a product called MyLink.